Let’s come up with a name for it right now. How about the “Opening Day Miracle,” or maybe “The Stokley Stunner.” Whatever you call it, for all intensive purposes the Broncos were cooked on Sunday in the Queen City trailing the Bengals 7-6 with :34 seconds left after a 1-yard Cedric Benson TD.
Then the football gods shined on Denver, at least for one day. 38 seconds remained, and Bronco QB Kyle Orton, who wasn’t very good, threw a desperate pass into a crowd at the sideline, hoping Brandon Marshall would somehow come down with it. Marshall never got close to the ball, instead cornerback Leon Hall batted the ball in the air, and the carom went right into the arms of Stokely, who was behind the defense and had a clear path to the end zone. He ran sideways for a few steps to eat up time before finally stepping into the end zone with :11 left.
It was an unreal end to a game that will never be thought of as an “ESPN Classic.” The game was 3-0 Broncos after Matt Prater hit a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the half. Then Prater hit a 50-yard field goal with :14 left in the third quarter to make it 6-0.
The Bengals, who did have some yards but no points, put their best drive together at the 6:21 mark, and drove it to the one when Benson went over, and at that point with :38 left it looked like Cincy would escape with a 7-6 win to start their season.
That’s when chaos ensued.
It will never do down as a thing of beauty, but for the Broncos, it was a win, and one that they sorely needed to start the Josh McDaniels era. Orton was 17-for-28 for 243 yards. Correll Buckhalter led the team with 46 yards on 8 carries. Rookie Knowshown Moreno had a tough day, gaining 19 yards on 8 carries.
To the Broncos it will go down as a classic, and while others may say ugly, to them it was a beautiful way to start the 2009 season.